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Painting depicting Jesus on the cross in Sheffield arrives at cathedral

The Very Rev Peter Bradley, Dean of Sheffield, David Hepher, artist and Rev Canon Keith Farrow.
The Very Rev Peter Bradley, Dean of Sheffield, David Hepher, artist and Rev Canon Keith Farrow.
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It is a perfect artwork for Sheffield Cathedral - a gritty, post-war industrial cityscape combined, unusually, with a biblical portrait.

Christ Over Sheffield depicts Jesus on the cross against a backdrop of terraced houses, chimneys and a gasometer seen from Upperthorpe, and was painted by David Hepher, who usually draws on the tower blocks of south London for his subject matter.

No. 21 by David Hepher, 1971. Picture: Museums Sheffield

No. 21 by David Hepher, 1971. Picture: Museums Sheffield

Hepher's work can be found in collections across Britain and Europe, including the Tate, the V&A, the Museum of London and the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen in Rotterdam.

The Reverend Canon Keith Farrow, canon missioner at the Anglican cathedral, said it was a 'significant painting' and that it had originally been commissioned by the vicar of St Chad's in Woodseats.

"David Hepher’s father was vicar of St Stephen’s, Upperthorpe, and the painting is taken from a high point in the parish looking on the landscape as it was in the late 1950s. Christ is portrayed on the cross with Sheffield as the backdrop, hence the title."

It is one of very few religious works of art by Hepher, aged 83, who studied at Camberwell School of Art and the Slade School of Art, where he later became professor and head of undergraduate painting.

"The painting is important because it documents 1950s and 60s Sheffield, at the very moment when back-to-back housing was being taken down and large blocks of flats were being built," said Rev Canon Farrow.

"The picture hung in St Chad’s for some years and during reordering of the church the painting was put in storage."

The church council of St Chad’s offered to present the piece to the cathedral, and Hepher attended a fundraising event where the necessary sum was collected to restore and reframe it.

The painting will be on display permanently to visitors in the west end of the cathedral.

Another of Hepher's works, No 21, lies in the Museums Sheffield art collection. An almost life-sized 1971 canvas of a semi-detached house, it was cannily acquired by Frank Constantine, the then galleries director, who noticed the expensive picture was in two halves so bought the right-hand panel from a London dealer at a reduced price. When he returned to the showroom several years later, Constantine spotted the unsold left-hand half and suggested it would never be purchased by anyone else on its own. He made an offer and managed to bring the whole painting to Sheffield, having secured a bargain.